Northampton’s Look Park trying to treat lawns using organic methods
NORTHAMPTON — As the city investigates whether to use Roundup herbicide as it develops new recreational fields in Florence, an effort by Look Park to go organic on part of its expansive campus is getting mixed reviews.
William Hildreth, the park’s maintenance director, said Look Park switched to an organic program three years ago, though only a portion of the lawns in the park are being treated that way right now.
Hildreth said the expense of converting to organic methods has been a tough hurdle to clear and the grass in the areas where the park is using such methods is not as lush and aesthetically pleasing as it has been in the past. In addition, he noted, there are some areas where organic treatment simply hasn’t worked.
“We did try to get away from Roundup, but nothing else works,” Hilldreth said. “We’re using Roundup today in some areas.”
But he said Look Park is committed to “doing what’s right” and will continue to invest in its organic program in partnership with lawn care professional Bernadette Giblin, who owns Safeground Organics Lawn Care in Northampton.
“I really believe in it,” he said. “I really think it’s an environmentally responsible thing to do.”
Look Park’s program began in 2010 when it and Safeground received a community grant from the Toxics Use Reduction Institute of the University of Massachusetts Lowell to begin organically treating the grass around the Pines Theater, an outdoor amphitheater.
A year later, the same organization awarded a second grant, which Look Park coupled with matching funds, to stop using chemicals to treat a 13-acre ballfield in the center of the park.
Even though the grant funds have expired, the park has made a commitment to continue the organic method through local sponsorships and a partnership with Valley Green of Holyoke, Hildreth said. He said Roundup is not being used in these areas.
“To really do it right, organic lawn care is a lot more expensive,” Hildreth said. “We do the best we can with the money and resources we have.”
The expense, Hildreth said, is part of the conundrum the park and other entities with tight budgets — like the city of Northampton — face as they explore whether to go organic.